How To Hurl An Insult
It's Shakespeare Season again at our house! This week commenceth our 12 year-old son's fifth summer of Shakespeare camp. Can you imagine spending two weeks, 9-3 each day, attending classes with names like "Stage Combat" and "Improv" and "Voice and Text" and "Shakespeare History?" He loves it. We are eternally grateful to the California Shakespeare Theatre for running this camp each year. (And I don't even want to think about how close we came to missing the chance this year; I signed up late and Sam was on a wait list. I held my breath for three weeks before getting the good news that he was in.)
When Sam was 8, he was in King Lear. This was the year he responded to being told to take a bath with a sniff to his arm and a thoughtful "...smells of mortality." This was the year that I put him in a time out for something and he said: "I am a boy more sinned against than sinning."
When he was 9, he was in Pericles. Yeah, I had never heard of that one either. It was about a King. And some battles. And some of the characters died. Shocking, I know.
When he was 10, he was in Hamlet. This was the year that he called his messy bedroom Denmark, as in "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." Sure enough, we unearthed an extremely disgusting apple beneath his bed.
When he was 11, he was (Puck!) in A Midsummer Night's Dream. That was just plain awesome.
Then he shook things up by being in a production of Love's Labour's Lost this past Spring, with a group called The Greenwood Players, an all youth-run, youth-directed company that produces one play each Spring with kids ranging in age from 10 to 16 or so. That was also awesome.
Now he is 12, and he is in The Taming of The Shrew. He is at a perfect age to get a huge kick out of this play. I expect him to be coming home for the next two weeks saying things like: "Mom, did you know what this means? Let me tell you!"
He's learned many things from all of his Shakespearean activity. He has learned how to kill and be killed on stage. He has learned some choice Elizabethan swear words. He was learned about innuendo. He learned that Shakespeare invented the word puke. And now, he is learning how to hurl an insult like Will Shakes.
Today at camp he received the Shakespearean Insult Sheet, which was adapted (by whom, I am not sure) from The Folger Shakespeare Library's Shakespeare Set Free. The sheet consists of three columns. Column A contains a spicy adjective, such as "churlish." Column B contains a hyphenated, and therefore double toned, adjective, such as "evil-eyed." And Column C contains a noun, and not a very flattering one at that.
The instructions start out like this: "Combineth one word or phrase from each column below and addeth 'Thou' to the beginning." That made me laugh. Then Sam and I had loads of fun insulting each other.
Thou distempered, sour-faced nut-hook!
Thou reeky, onion-eyed malignancy!
Thou queasy, eye-offending remnant!
Thou pernicious, lean-witted pantaloon!
There are 30 entries in each column. That means there are 27,000 different possible insults. That should last us at least through the rest of the summer, don't you think?
Here is a link to the insult sheet, so you can have as much fun as we are having being horrible to each other. We might as well learn from the best!
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